Peninsula Mental Health and Addiction Services


What is Anxiety?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM-5), anxiety disorders include those that are commonly characterized by fear and anxiety.

Fear is an emotional response to a threat. On the other hand, anxiety is the emotional anticipation of a future threat. Everyone experiences anxiety and fear to some extent; however, people with an anxiety disorder experience unhealthy levels of anxiety which often impair daily functioning. Whether the perceived future threat is real or fictional, people with an anxiety disorder can become emotionally crippled from persistent anxiety.

There are various anxiety disorders, which often differ in the situations that cause anxiety. These disorders include:

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder
  • Selective Mutism
  • Specific Phobia
  • Social Anxiety Disorder
  • Panic Disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Substance-Induced Anxiety Disorder
  • Anxiety Disorder Due to Another Medical Condition

What are Symptoms?

The severity and type of symptoms people experience with anxiety disorders are different from person to person, but in general anxiety disorder symptoms include:

  • Excessive anxiety or worrying
  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance

What Causes Anxiety?

Like many mental illnesses, the exact cause of anxiety disorders cannot be singled out. However, research has identified several risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing an anxiety disorder. These risk factors include:

  • Negative affectivity
    • People who are typically in a negative mood are more likely to develop an anxiety disorder when facing stressful life experiences
  • Environment
    • Adverse childhood experiences
    • Parental overprotection
  • Genetics
    • People with a family history of anxiety disorders are at an increased risk of developing one

How is it Treated?

Treatment is possible.

Many people with an anxiety disorder benefit from both medication assisted treatment and therapeutic services. Some of the most used effective therapy styles include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy aims to replace harmful thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with more positive ones to develop healthy coping mechanisms.

Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, focuses primarily on personal interactions between a patient and their psychologist for healing and coping purposes.

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).